New report finds systemic use of restraint and seclusion in B.C. schools

A empty teacher's desk is pictured at the front of a empty classroom.
A empty teacher's desk is pictured at the front of a empty classroom. Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

A troubling report has found continuing and systemic use of restraint and seclusion in schools.

Inclusion BC released a report on Wednesday with stories from parents reporting disturbing incidents and patterns of conduct, inadequate staff training and support, and a systemic lack of oversight.

“We know that B.C. educators want to provide safe, inclusive and supportive classrooms that welcome all students,” said Inclusion BC Executive Director Faith Bodnar. “But too many B.C students with special needs are still being injured and traumatized by abusive, inappropriate and outdated practices that have no place in a modern education system.”

READ MORE: Teachers’ union says it can do better after report details conflicts with special needs students

Inclusion BC blames the incidents on the lack of regulatory oversight, unclear standards, and inadequate support and training. Inclusion BC produced a similar report in 2013 that led to the previous provincial government putting in voluntary guidelines in 2015.

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Last year, the group launched a follow-up when it discovered only one in three BC school boards had adopted policies on restraint and seclusion.

“We desperately need provincial leadership that directs all school boards to have up-to-date policies, with requirements to report all incidents of the use of seclusion and restraint and for all those working with students with special needs to have training in positive behaviour support,” said Bodnar.

WATCH: More complaints from parents of special needs students

Click to play video 'More complaints from parents of special needs students' More complaints from parents of special needs students
More complaints from parents of special needs students – Nov 9, 2017

B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming has reviewed the report and called the findings “unacceptable.” The province is now vowing to take immediate action to improve the system.

“I have reviewed the report with my deputy minister and we are going to act on it very quickly,” said Fleming. “We have a provincial set of guidelines that we are going to give every school district an opportunity to work on closely to us and have in place by the end of 2018.”

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Fleming said there are only about 20 districts with clear guidelines currently. All superintendents in the province are now going to be asked to review the report.

READ MORE: In B.C., special needs kids are accessing school as little as 1.5 hours, 2 days a week

He said that as a parent, he would want to know if an incident like this happened to his child at school, noting he is committed to helping schools to create a clean line of reporting.

“These are extremely rare situations but they are disturbing that they happen at all,” said Fleming. “I think if the teaching professionals feel like they need extra support for these rare circumstances, we will look at that.”